Tuesday 23 January 2018

Civil servants will get more power to challenge politicians

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Government is promising new laws to allow top civil servants to "stand up to political masters" and prevent a repeat of what happened with the second mobile phone licence.

There was no evidence in the Moriarty Tribunal report of the civil service early warning system in operation -- which could have informed senior cabinet ministers of what Communications Minister Michael Lowry was doing.

Mr Lowry was found to have reversed an instruction by the senior civil servant in his department to give the mobile phone licence group another week to complete their discussions.

At the time, the tribunal said there was "turbulent dissent" in the group on who to recommend as the winner.

Then Taoiseach John Bruton and other senior ministers knew nothing about this when Mr Lowry told them on October 25 1996 that businessman Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone's consortium was the clear winner of the competition.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte told the Dail yesterday that the Government could not have gone around "second guessing" the information provided by Mr Lowry.

But he said the Government was going to introduce new laws to govern the relations between ministers and civil servants.

"The powers and responsibilities of secretaries general will be strengthened so as to assist them. . . in standing up to political masters who are less attentive to the requirements of due process and sound administration," he said.

Irish Independent

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